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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Nobody’s sure Donald Trump’s running for president, but most expect to be his running mate.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took center stage on Monday at the Values Voter Summit of the Family Research Council in Washington. Never mind that he’s a Republican and he’s got zero chance of running for president. Just look at him! His hair! The floral vest he’s wearing! Hating anything? That would be like hating anything! On a stage of conservative men with a lot of dough and none of it to save them from future recessions, this is Christie like no other guy around. He’s strong. Loud. The alpha male in a line that has grown exceptionally short this year.

Too bad Trump can’t make it. Sorry, Donald, you had better apologize for that whole Elian Gonzalez thing, which is about 10,000 years too late, and nothing will ever be the same again.

This was a joint appearance for Christie and Joe Scarborough, former MSNBC host and current correspondent for “Morning Joe.” For the president of the United States, arriving too late and not wearing his religious hat, this would be a case of the missing man in a town of people who are on the lam.

Christie mocked the president for being dishonest and for saying many things that are not true — stuff like “the Obamacare horror show is worse than it is known to be” and “at the very least, he should be impeached.”

“Trump is the most corrupt person in the United States of America,” he said. “He is the most dishonest person in the United States of America.”

Trump, he added, had “terrorists in his pocket, criminals in his pocket and foreign dictators.”

One gets the impression that when this real thing speaks, much of this is lost on the non-existent one. Christie, who, you should note, may be remembered as the bloviating Joe Morello from “Jerry Maguire,” declared Trump an authoritarian. He had taken on the mantle of Caesar. This set off Scarborough, who, you should also note, was the third or fourth most important person on television in 2002 when “Morning Joe” debuted.

“This is what they talked about in Bush II,” he said, waving his hands. “That’s what they talked about when they drove the car out of the ditch.”

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that Christie and Scarborough were casting their eyes past today’s news and toward the future. Scarborough asked Christie if he might be interested in running for president some day. “I think so,” said Christie, the man who had famously declined to endorse John McCain for president in 2008. “Have you ever seen Bill Clinton running for president?”

“Well, he’s Donald Trump,” said Scarborough. “He’s going to do a pretty good job running if he can’t” consider it.

Ultimately, they were more back-to-rootsy than overtly religious. In a striking show of poor taste, they seemed to need to keep reminding the audience of their own religious faith. “God believes in me,” said Scarborough. “We must commit to being God’s children.”

Christie is a convert. (Where did you get that spiritual bon mot? So original!) He is not a Protestant. He has a nondenominational faith. At one point, the audience chanted “Nondenominational.” By the time the couple had finished, that was pretty much a staple. Later, a pastor dedicated an entire moment to passing the word that “the ultimate cause for moving forward on the political spectrum will be an evangelical in the White House.”

The press corps came up with the reporters’ crudest reminder for them to find these things out and get them before the event ended. The reporters passed the microphone around the room, to the “Morning Joe” crew and others, and anyone curious. One puzzled reporter from the local paper overheard one of the co-hosts reading from a script. He didn’t know it was the final moment, until she was out of earshot.

“Well, I don’t know,” said the reporter, “but if Donald Trump is ready to go, at least some would agree he’s ready to go.”

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